Who? Where? What? How? Why? When?

We’ve recently had our monthly B1 Preliminary (PET) assessment. My English learners have shown good control of the language structures, great listening and reading comprehension skills. Bravo! There’s been something not fully up to scratch, though. This made me wonder whether there is something I can do to help B1 (PET) candidates avoid the well-known “I CAN SEE” in B1 Preliminary Speaking Part 2. So, here we go!

Why don’t we start with Mr. Icansee itself? The modal verb can, in affirmative sentences, expresses the following:

  • Ability (A1), e.g. I can speak five languages.
  • Permission (A1), e.g. You can park over there. 
  • Possibility (A2), e.g. You can catch a nasty cold in this kind of weather.

Overusing I can see, when describing a photograph, doesn’t really show you’ve reached, or you’re about to reach, the B1 Preliminary (PET) level. Remember, you need to speak for up to 1 minute, no more! Precious time is being wasted, saying I can see, again and again, and describing, besides, all the way during your individual long turn, obvious things in a simple, A2-level way. 

Let’s take your individual long turn in Speaking Part 2 to the B1 level!

B1 Preliminary Speaking

The title of today’s lesson is Who? Where? What? How? Why? When? Remember these key question words. This is the very first step that will improve your speaking skills. 

Let’s put them into practice, straightforwardly and smoothly.

Look at the picture below. Read and answer each of the six questions below the photograph. Open the question to read a model answer. Compare it with yours.

PET Speaking Part 2

One of my earliest and fondest recollections of my childhood is being carried back home by my dad, whom I used to see as the superman himself, from the field, in such a wheelbarrow. Good old days!

But I digress. 😉 Let’s get back to what I was saying!

There is a woman and two children.

They are outside.

They are coming back home from the orchard.

They are happy and excited.

Because their mother is carrying them in a wheelbarrow.

The picture was taken in summer because the sun is shining and everyone is wearing sleeveless clothes.

How do you find the photograph description now? Better, but still simple. Why? We’ve described the photograph well, all we saw, worth a good mark C; however, we’ve mentioned the obvious things, without using the language of speculation.

Making guesses rather than describing the obvious, guided by the six key question words above, is the second step and a must towards an upgrade of your speaking skills. Grade B will be a sure thing.

B1 Speaking Part 2

The structures below are the ones you must use to speculate, instead of simply describe the obvious things you see in the photograph.

He/She/It/They LOOK(S) + adjective
The children look excited. Their mum looks happy.
He/She/It/They MIGHT be/have …
They might be in the countryside. They might be spending a wonderful time outdoors.
MAYBE he/she/it/they …
Maybe they are coming back from the orchard because both kids are holding an apple.
He/She/It/They is/are PROBABLY …
It’s probably during the summer holiday. It’s probably not easy to carry the children in the wheelbarrow.
I’m pretty sure the photo was taken in summer because everyone is wearing sleeveless clothes. I’m pretty sure this is an unforgettable experience.

What if you don’t know or have simply forgotten the words like wheelbarrow, orchard and sleeveless? Will you freeze or try to explain them? 

You will explain them in plain English just like this:

  • I can’t remember what this is. It looks like a kind of container. It’s made of metal. It’s something used in the country to carry things.
  • It looks like a garden with trees which give fruits, like plums and pears.
  • It’s the type of clothes we wear in summer.

This is the third important thing you should do  – show that you won’t give in even if you don’t know the word, or you have simply forgotten it.

Use the following structures to explain such words:

  1. I can’t remember what this is.
  2. It looks like a (kind of)…
  3. It’s something we use to/for …
  4. It’s a type of …
  5. It’s made of …
  6. Perhaps it’s …

Now I invite you to do the task below.


  • Describe the photograph following the WHO, WHAT, HOW, WHY and WHEN order,
  • Make guesses,
  • Give an explanation in case you can’t think of the word in English, and,
  • To go an extra mile, give a reason for your point of view. Use the following words for this: because, since, as

B1 Preliminary Speaking Part 2 Exam task

B1 Preliminary Speaking part 2

Here is your photo. It shows young people spending time together. Please tell us what you see in the photograph.

There are six teenagers in this picture. They could be friends or classmates. I am pretty sure they are outside because of the fence behind them and the grass behind the girl with long curly hair, wearing blue jeans. They are probably listening to music since one of the three boys is holding a stereo, the other three have got big headsets and one girl looks like she is dancing. The friends might be talking as well. Everybody is cheerful. They are in a good mood because they are spending an amazing time together with friends. It could be at the weekend, or maybe after school, in the afternoon, as the boy on the right is carrying a backpack and has something in his left hand that is a type of notebook. Perhaps it’s a folder. The photo was taken in late spring or at the beginning of autumn because they are wearing lightweight, casual, clothes, like shorts, T-shirts and some with long sleeves. 

Keep up practising for your individual long turn in Part 2 of the B1 Preliminary Speaking paper. There are a lot of photographs online. Just type in on your browser B1 Speaking images and, at the push of a button, you’ll have them. Another idea is describing what you see in front of you while waiting somewhere. I remember we were sitting on a bench with my son when I came up with this idea. He was preparing for the B2 First examination at that time. To help him remember the structures of speculation, each of us had to turn an obvious thing we saw into a more complex way, using structures like modals and other expressions of possibility. We had much fun! I’m sure it has done the trick. 

You will also succeed, taking your 1-minute performance describing the photograph to a high level in the B1 Preliminary Speaking paper Part 2. Good luck!

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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